Signs of Hope

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“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19

A recent devotional from Our Daily Bread tells the story of a recovering addict named Elizabeth who leaves encouraging notes on the car windshields of strangers.  She often closes these with the words, “Much love.  Hope sent.”

#inspiring

However, a query into the definition of hope reveals a fickle and fragile relationship between “Happy Days are Here Again” and mankind.

Hope (n.)  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  (Source: dictionary.com)

Sounds straightforward to me.  A quick synonym check reveals a delicate situation, however.  Confidence, expectation, and optimism make the list, but so do day dream, fool’s paradise, and castles in the air.

Clearly, the world sees hope as less of an “anchor for the soul” and more like wishful thinking.  To Madison Avenue, the future is a wind up toy with an ever-weakening spring;  expectation has an expiration date.

Thankfully, God doesn’t deal in pipe dreams.  The hope He offers has no shelf life, it’s a perpetual spring.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you.”  1 Peter 1:3-4

I’d like to meet the note leaving hope-giver Elizabeth someday.  She used to look for signs of hope, but now she leaves them for others.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,  I would still plant my apple tree.”  Martin Luther

The Times They Are a-Changin’

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“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What is your name?”, I asked a patient in the Alzheimer’s unit where I visit once a month. “My name is *Ellen,” she replied, “but it will change.”

Apparently, there are those who know they have dementia and those who do not. Ellen is in the first category, but seems to take it in stride.

I decided to leave the conversation at that, but wondered what this kindly woman had once done for a living. Judging by her answer, she could have been a famous philosopher.

The scripture above says life is GUARANTEED to change–just like the seasons. It’s beyond our control; Summer turns to Fall and Winter is next. All one can do is prepare for the inevitable.

Is it just me, or does the free acceptance of fate sound a little depressing? Maybe that’s why, in this age of social media, there aren’t many “Ellen’s” posting about themselves with brutal honesty on FaceBook or sharing unvarnished self-truths on Twitter.

Who wants to be vulnerable?

Yet, in my new friend at the Alzheimer’s unit, there seemed to be no fear of embarrassing exposure. Ellen, even in her present condition, is keeping it REAL.

Going forward, I intend to do likewise.

Prayer:

God, you know the way I feel, You knew it from the start.
Show me what’s really REAL; guide and guard my heart. AMEN

*Not the same name she said–to protect her privacy.

Check, Not Checkmate

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“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9″

The apostle Paul penned these words to his friends in the ancient city of Corinth. He had been spreading the Christian message in another city, Ephesus, and was trying to decide whether to stay put or move on.

There had been many opportunities for Paul in Ephesus, but also much opposition. His preaching had been met with riotous mobs and death threats. Most people would take this as a sign to get out of town, but not Paul! He decided to base his decisions on God’s activity rather than what his enemies were doing and stayed in Ephesus for another year.  Many more converts were added to the church during this time.

One can only assume, but I bet Paul’s life felt something like a chess match. Over and over, his opponents backed him into a corner–putting him in check.  But God always provided a way out and kept Paul out of checkmate.

This has recently become real to me. In fact, I started this blog because I was placed in “check.”

For several months, I sent a dozen or so Christian colleagues at my company a Bible verse with an encouraging thought every morning.  These are friends who attend a weekly employee prayer group or asked specifically to be included in the email. Nevertheless, someone in our company complained to HR, telling them I was sending “scriptures” through company email. The next thing I know, my boss gets a visit from corporate.

No, I wasn’t told to cease and desist.  But the reality that someone took offense at my attempt to encourage a few Christian friends was deflating.  I was really down for about 24 hours, but then recalled the words of a dear friend, “There are always options: good ones and bad ones.”

I chose the best option I could and avoided checkmate.  When the time comes, I hope you will too.

Peace that Isn’t Pitiful

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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Have you ever attempted to bring peace to a difficult situation and failed?

This happened to me once with a room full of squirming kindergarteners.

I was a brand new elementary music teacher determined to prove my worth.  Those little guys didn’t know who they were dealing with!  Man, was I wrong.

I attempted to quiet down the class room using a call back:  “Tootsie Roll. Lollipop.  I was talking now I’ll stop.”  The children were supposed to repeat after me, ONCE, and then get quiet.  The trouble was, several little tykes wanted to be the last one standing.  So they just kept saying it over and over.

I spoke peace, but peace did not prevail.

Jesus, however, has a better track record.  He not only speaks peace to a situation, He creates it.  Awakened once in the back of a boat during a fierce storm, he told the wind to stop and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!”  And the wind died down completely and there was a miraculous calm (Mark 4:39).

The application here is obvious.  If the Prince of Peace speaks calm to your situation, He actually has the power to make it happen.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3